The Illinois Confederates

Southern Illinois in 1861 was inhabited to a great extent by families who had migrated from Virginia and Kentucky in search of new farm land. It is not surprising that when secession came there should be considerable sympathy for the South in this section of a Union state.

On April 15, 1861, a resolution was passed by a local citizens’ committee in Marion, Williamson County, Illinois, supporting the Confederacy and protesting the use of Illinois troops in suppressing the Southern states. Thorndike Brooks and Henry C. Hopper were among the leaders of this pro-Southern group and soon set about recruiting a company.

The company was raised in Williamson and Jackson counties. Great precautions were necessary to prevent the entire group from being arrested before they even got started. By this time Union forces had occupied Cairo and more troops were pouring into Southern Illinois.

About 45 men were recruited and met six miles south of Marion on May 25. The scene that followed must have been similar to that enacted in many Southern towns during this period. Speeches were made by the leading citizens of Marion encouraging the men to go forth and defend the rights of the South. Some members of the company even alleged after the war that John A. Logan, who was then Congressman from the district in which the company was raised, knew about its organization and gave encouragement to many of its members. It was with some bitterness in later months that the members of the Illinois company learned that Logan was a Union general and many of the same citizens who had addressed them as they left had also joined the Union Army. Continue reading